Leaders of the New School

Leaders of the New School

Hip-hop has come a long way from its New York City to become a cultural powerhouse that influences politics, fashion, sports, popular culture, language, and more. Its global appeal is what prompted three friends to foster a cross-cultural community targeting disadvantaged youth worldwide. The Hip Hop Loves Foundation (www.hiphoploves.com) offers programming centered on themes such as career success, social justice, and empowerment through workshops on break dancing, DJing, emceeing, and even boxing.

“When I was 12 years old, I went to Nice, in the South of France, and attended a Depeche Mode concert. Although some of the French kids didn’t understand English, they just really vibed with the music,” remembers Rene John-Sandy II, co-founder and president of the nearly 2-year-old nonprofit. “That’s when I realized how universal music is.”

The program primarily serves underserved communities both here and abroad. “We look at hip-hop as the cultural intersection of many vibrant forms of expression, including dance, sports, visual arts, and technology,” adds the 39-year-old, who operates a consulting, brand management, and marketing firm and has toured with acts such as Common, Talib Kweli, De La Soul, Kanye West, and Dave Chappelle. For John-Sandy, finding others with the same passion wasn’t difficult.

Picture from Beauty and the Beat: Heroines For Haiti, Vol. 2 (Courtesy of Hip-Hop Loves Foundation; photo by Nicole Wescott)

Paris-born musician, producer, and composer Sebastian “Siba” Bardin-Greenberg has collaborated with artists such as saxophonist Maceo Parker, and rappers Everlast of House of Pain and Daddy-O of Stetsasonic. The HHLF co-founder’s first trip to Rio de Janeiro was a high school graduation present from his mother, who lived in Rio for eight years, but he has returned several times. After a trip in 2008, Bardin-Greenberg got the idea for a music festival that would honor his late mother’s work as well as educate Rio’s native residents. The 39-year-old proposed it to several friends and colleagues, including John-Sandy.

With an initial investment of $5,000 from each founder (a third co-founder, 34-year-old Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson, recently left the organization to launch her own marketing company)–culled from personal savings, friends, and family–HHLF hosted its first event with Fight For Peace, a local community organization that uses boxing and martial arts to reach troubled youth, in Rio de Janiero’s Mare favela in December 2009.

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